Things are very different for Premier League-chasing Norwich City from the last time they prepared to face Middlesbrough
The equation could not be more different for Norwich City heading into Saturday evening’s trip to Middlesbrough than when the two teams first met earlier in the season.
Cast your minds back to mid-September when just one win from the opening six games had done little to enhance any early-season optimism at Carrow Road.
In fact, there were some who had even begun to lose faith in Daniel Farke – a concern which was arguably justifiable when considering City’s long-term form.
Referring to my column prior to that match, I noted how City had ‘yet to hit the ground running’ despite showing ‘flashes of what this team is capable of’.
I also wrote that three points could ‘prove to be a turning point’ in City’s season – although not even the most optimistic supporter could have foreseen the rapid rise which was to follow.
At the time, the scrappy 1-0 win – courtesy of a Teemu Pukki goal – may have seemed largely insignificant, but it sparked a run which saw City pick up 42 of the next 51 points available – laying the foundations for an unlikely promotion push.
From there, City have yet to look back and now find themselves just eight games from a return to the Premier League.
I’m cautious of predicting how many points are still needed, but for me, five wins should be the target – taking Farke’s side up to 93 points.
The first opportunity comes at the Riverside tomorrow, on paper City’s most difficult fixture remaining – although I wouldn’t want to be heading to Villa Park on the final day in search of points.
That said, following three defeats in a row, Boro are in real danger of sliding out of the play-off positions and Farke will be looking for a fast start from his young guns to exploit any nerves within Tony Pulis’ side.
While it feels there is still a long way to go, victory would be another giant step towards promotion.